They said the policy should include a monitoring and evaluation framework for assessing results and impact at different programmes and interventions in the implementation of the policy.
The forum attended by stakeholders from Western and Central Regions Ghana Prisons Service, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Metropolitan Assemblies, Department of Community Development, Judicial Service, National Commission for Civic Education, Ghana Education Service, National Youth Authority, National Peace Council, Department of Social Welfare, Regional Co-ordinating Councils, NGOs, Christian and Moslem communities is aimed at building and strengthening child protection.
Mr Christopher Lartey, a member of the National Advisory Committee, said Ghana has had two decades of stable democratic development with a Constitution that guarantees the rights and freedoms for all, and has ratified most international protocols on children.
He said although the country has also introduced various interventions such as the capitation grant, the school feeding programme among others, children continue to face challenges in the form of violence, abuse and exploitation in all settings including the justice system.
He said it was in this light that a policy mapping was drafted in 2010 to analyse the national child protection system to highlight a more fundamental challenge that lied in the wide gap between the legal provisions in place and community approaches to dealing with child protection issue.
According to him, research findings also raised the question of whether the structures and approaches in the formal system were relevant, feasible and appropriate to the Ghanaian context and culture, which recognised that a child justice system should reflect the values, expectations, aspirations and capacities of local families, communities, civil society and state actors.
Mr Lartey indicated that everything is being done to reconceptualise the child justice system, based on the need to close the gap between the formal and community ways of dealing with child justice issues, and thus build a united system that is more relevant, sustainable and fit for Ghana.
He said in addition in 2012, the Government and its partners established an Advisory Committee to guide the process of developing a national justice for children that would reflect national priorities and aspirations.
It would also resonate with both service providers and users, and be owned by and supported by communities and decision-makers alike, thereby ensuring that the system is congruent.
Mr Lartey however noted that in spite of all these policy development rationales and processes, there was an increasing demand for access to justice to address issues of child custody, maintenance and paternity, crimes against children, and juvenile offences.
He said the lack of a comprehensive national data on children in the justice system, have made it difficult to assess the full nature and scope of children issues despite alarming proportions in child violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
Mrs Sheila Minka-Premo, a consultant to the Department of Children, in her overview of the draft justice for children policy, said the number of cases officially reported to the Domestic, Violence and Victims Support Unit of Ghana Police Service had increased significantly from 1,128 in 2002 to more than 2,157 in 2013.
She noted that Ghana was the first country to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and had signed and ratified most major international instruments relating to child protection, among other legal frameworks such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Juvenile Justice Act and the Children’s Act.
She said the country needs to do more to protect the child, especially when in relation to justice issues.
Mrs Minka-Premo enumerated variety of strategies that could be adopted to help achieve the objectives of the justice for children policy, which include the prevention of juvenile offending and recidivism, strengthening of programmes for rehabilitation and reintegration, strengthening formal and community justice system to enhance access to justice for children in conflict with the law.
She suggested that the country should ensure the protection for children as witnesses and victims of crimes, ensuring the protection for children involved in family and other civil proceedings, guiding the reform of laws, policies and procedures to improve access to justice for children.
Mrs Minka- Premo also called for the necessary changes to the regulatory framework and ensures the provision of financial and human resources for effective implementation of the policy.